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Archive for the ‘Swecha’ Category

Name is the New Game?

Posted by themischord on October 31, 2007

Just today morning I was thinking, I’m not really a purist, and that I settle for things like Nike shoes, if now ipods to keep going. But here I read about Google’s OpenSocial and I’m screaming. It sounds all good and great and more ‘open’ then existing infrastructure but my contention is with the name. Why use the word ‘open’ when it is not? ‘Open’ is not the same as ‘free’ or ‘collaborate’. When these terms are used in such a loose sense, I feel enraged. That’s marketing, not altruism. The justification given is that Google plans to open source it someday. But for now, be happy with their API.

I’ll call myself God from today, coz I think that someday I’ll be omnipotent!

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Posted in Swecha, Tech | 7 Comments »

Telugu Keyboard Maps

Posted by themischord on September 19, 2007

Telugu keyboard maps have finally made it into the multilingualization package (m17n-contrib)!

Posted in Swecha, Tech | 3 Comments »

Exhilarated!

Posted by themischord on May 24, 2007

Festival Telugu is now in the Debian stable repository. Somehow, I’m more excited today than I was when it was first added to the unstable repository about a year back. Good to see that it survived. Although I couldn’t be of great help, the Festival Hindi and Marathi teams did a great work in releasing their versions. Time to kick myself really hard and help the other language teams now. Yippee again 🙂

Posted in Swecha, Tech | Leave a Comment »

Unicode Conversion Gateway for Indian Language Newspapers

Posted by themischord on December 22, 2006

Lack of usable content in Indian languages has been a major problem for a long time now. There are quite a few Indian language newspapers and magazines which have online portals, but unfortunately, they use proprietary fonts/encodings. This makes them good only for viewing the page. These pages cannot be indexed by search engines, cannot be used to create a corpus etc, making valuable content practically useless. For instance, if one searches for a Telugu word in google, there will be no results from eenadu.com which is a Telugu newspaper.

The Swecha team at TCS has set up a Unicode Conversion Gateway for some popular Indian language newspapers in Hindi, Telugu, Tamil, Gurajati, Kannada and Malayalam. For the tech savy, the proxy server fetches pages from the original server, converts it into a Unicode based encoding, which is a standard and serves the page to the user. It uses modified Padma Firefox Extension to do this.

Since search engines understand Unicode based encodings (like UTF8), they will be able to index the pages through this gateway. There are other advantages of a Unicode encoded page too. One can search for a word within the page and copy and paste the Indian language text from the page like regular English text.

Posted in Swecha | 1 Comment »

Edubuntu for Schools

Posted by themischord on October 9, 2006

My next article for Prajasakti is on using Edubuntu in schools for improved teaching. Ever since I read prasad’s post, I’ve been a little uncomfortable about Ubuntu. But I went ahead and wrote the article. But now, I’m wondering if I should have recommended Freeduc instead.

Posted in Articles, Swecha | 1 Comment »

FOSS Workshop at VNR-VJIET

Posted by themischord on March 20, 2006

VNR-VJIET conducted a three-day workshop on Free/Open Source Software Technologies from 16th-18th March, 2006. I took a session on What is Free Software? and another on Intro to PHP and MySQL. Professors and department heads from a few other Engineering colleges attended the workshop. Although the number of participants was just about thirty, the response and enthusiasm was pretty encouraging. We had a few of them inviting us for talks back in their colleges. One department head requested help in setting up a lab in his college.

Apart from expanding the network, the workshop highlighted something very important. It was just about 8 months back that a GLUG (GNU/Linux User Group) was started in VNR-VJIET. And now, I find that the department head and many professors in the CS and IT departments are influenced by the Free Software philosophy and are happy with the progress in learning the students are making. I especially commend the core student members of this GLUG who are doing a great job by regularly organizing sessions and talks. They did a great job of organizing the workshop. They are also making a great effort to migrate their labs to GNU/Linux based servers and desktops. This is a great step. If such initiatives are taken up in the local engineering colleges, I don't see why it is impossible to get the hyped IIT, IIIT quality education in them.

The future is Bright!

Posted in Swecha | 2 Comments »

Why Telugu and GNU/Linux?

Posted by themischord on March 14, 2006

This is in response to the questions raised by Sagar…

Q. Is this your own endeavour or sponsored by your company?

A. The technical work is mostly done by us as employees of our company. We do the other activities like propagating, conducting workshops, involving students etc. as members of FSF-AP. Our company has been supporting us by allowing us to take time off at times for these activities.

Q. I'm sure you'll agree that English is necessary if the students want to go to college. And they are already familiar with Windows. Why then, do you want them to shift to using Telugu Linux?

A. When we were demonstrating Swecha, quite often people miscomprehended it to be our effort to save the Telugu language. I almost wholly disagree with that view. Swecha is not about the Telugu language, it is about the people who can be benefited by it. I will answer the question in 2 parts.

Why Telugu?
According to population census, about 65% in India are literate. Out of these, MIT (Ministry of Information Technology) statistics hold that only about 5% are educated in English. If any part of information technology (content and solutions) have to reach the remaining 95% literates, it is essential to have interfaces to computers in the local languages. In India, language divide is one of the foremost causes of digital divide. If we want to solve digital divide there is no way we can ignore the language part. So, the importance of Telugu.

When we say that we are working on providing "Telugu support for GNU/Linux", it does not mean that we expect GNOME or KDE Desktop to be used by a villager. We are working on providing architectural support for the development of new applications in native languages. Say, a village information system, crop prices or weather bulletin in the local language. Such applications can have a real impact on people. For all this, the local language support is essential.

By now, I'm sure u got my import when I say that Swecha is not really for the tech-savy mother-tongue patriot who wants to see the Desktop in his native language. It is for the millions of others who can communicate only in their native language.

Why GNU/Linux?
Sheer economics
If I were to deploy tens of thousands of computers in towns/villages to provide them with the benefits of information technology, I certainly don't want to pay a million $ to a corporate for the OS or software when I have a good (maybe better 😉 alternative.

Freedom
This I think this the most important reason why Free Software should always be used. The philosophy is that I don't depend on anyone to solve my need. I don't want to wait praying while the corporate is doing feasibility analysis to decide if it wants to add a feature or a fix a bug for me. If a small community in Africa wanted a Desktop in their language, what are the odds that Microsoft or any other corporate would take up the project?

Present is not the Future
It may be true that Windows is the most popular desktop as of today. Given that the penetration of computers in our country is very small (estimating it to be less than a whole 1%), what significance really does the fact that these people are familiar with Windows have? When we have nearly 99% of the population waiting to be educated to use the technology, let us teach them the right thing!

Q. What stage is this project now?

A. Most of the important components are in place. We have fonts, keyboard layouts for input, browser and desktop application support for display of Telugu. Desktop string translations are in good progress. Telugu text-to-speech system with support for screen reader is ready. You can download the live cd and check out documentation at Swecha site.

Posted in Swecha | 2 Comments »

Long Due… My Articles in Prajasakti

Posted by themischord on February 24, 2006

For a few months now, I’ve been writing in the tech column of a daily newspaper called Prajasakti. Although it is not all that glamorous to write articles in Telugu, given that a I am real tyro with no prior writing experience, this has been a great chance for me to learn. Importantly, I got to write articles on some good topics. I am particulary proud of my first one which was on Wikipedia. I also wrote something on Mozilla Firefox, Web Syndication (RSS and Atom) and Free Software on Windows.

If you have had patience to read any of them, don’t forget to give me your feedback 🙂

Posted in Articles, Swecha | 1 Comment »

Setting Out On Swecha…

Posted by themischord on October 16, 2005

For sometime now, I've been involved in some interesting activity with the Free Software Foundation of AP. Sat down to write about my experiences many times, but the flood never reached there. The other day a friend told me that he had a reverie: farmers in AP after having read articles by Bunny and me started reading wikipedia and blogs, their problems began to getting resolved and they stopped resorting to suicide! This is truly a DREAM. I would live just to see it come true. It is very gratifying to know that the little things we are doing are finding a place in others thoughts. So I'll take the responsibility of being more responsible in updating my other blog http://swecha.blogspot.com

This will be a very personal account of my experiences. Please keep checking it out and drop in your comments. It is good to be heard, encouraging to be responded to and empowering to know there are more out there.

Posted in Swecha | 3 Comments »

A Spare Thought

Posted by themischord on October 16, 2005

Like many other citizens of this world, I've always felt a responsibility towards our society. In more youthful days, I had decided that I would donate some part of my earnings to charity, an idea that served only the good purpose of making me feel good. I say that coz, although I actually did do it, very soon I realized that it was not an effective method.

A friend once raised a question on the level of involvement of a person in the society. By what I understood, I could classify people into some distinct categories. The first group is that of the most common, abundantly found citizens who donate money (and old clothes!) and consider their role done. The second is that that of the scientists, researchers, innovaters and thinkers who make progress possible. But maybe this progress is doesn't effect all equally. The third is the class of people who work to make this progress reach more people. No, I am not referring to social workers. I am talking of business men who provide employment, industrialists who hold the economy, civil servants who interface between the common man and the government. They do a job which is more gratifying to the soul rather than the intellect. This may not be a view which many will agree with, but it is the spirit of Swecha.

The Genesis
Swecha is not a technical challenge to make a Telugu computer. Nor is it about fighting the digital divide. It addresses issues beyond education, economy, knowledge impartation and freedom. It is a restoring force. It motivates various components of the societal framework to contribute in enhancing the entire structure. My rambling by now may sound absurd and abstruse but if you have the patience to follow this blog a little more, you will hopefully understand this better.

A workshop was conducted to educate Engg. college students on free software in the month of june. It triggered off a series of other interesting activities. At the workshop, we resolved to demonstrate Swecha (GNU/Linux in Telugu) in 21 villages, form 21 GLUGs (GNU/Linux Users Group) and put up an online magazine within a month. We've been largely successful in achieving this.

Sangareddy – Gives Hope
There were heated discussions on how people would perceive the usefulness of a computer in Telugu. We had little hope that the government officials would be receptive and synergize with us. Deciding to be the "earliest failures" we set out to Sangareddy town. Contrary to our expectations, the collector of the district was just too excited about the idea. He promised to support us and has been doing the same. We were given a chance to demostrate the Telugu Gnome desktop at a meeting where all the district officers were present. The honor was more than that. The collector quoted us to be examplary. Not to mention that he was totally incredulous about the fact that we were all well employed, not expecting monetary returns and could come down on a tuesday afternoon to give the demo! We also demonstrated Swecha at a High school there. The school had a computer lab which was run by Aptech. Surprisingly the kids were very comfortable using the Windows desktop. They were pretty excited to see things in Telugu. Although I can't confidently say that the idea of free software sinked in, atleast we know that it is now in the air.

Swecha Second Release
By end of July, 2005 we had taken Swecha over to more than 10 districts in the state. We were by then preparing for the second version of Swecha. Most of the technical challenges in creating a desktop with the basic functionality needed to input/view Telugu was ready. Unfortunately, we did not have enough resources to help with translation of strings in the applications. A small group of students from a not so well known Engg. college in Mehboobnagar were working on the translations with help from FSF-AP. In an attempt to meet the deadline for the second release of Swecha, the students of the GLUG in that college showed a truly admirable spirit. Fighting initial resistance from the college authorities and working in shifts 24 hours a day, they helped complete the Gnome desktop translations. The reward commensurated the efforts as the Collector of Mehboobnagar gave the GLUG a pilot project to install and run Swecha on nearly 60 computers in 10 schools in that district!

GLUGs
We have been conducting workshops to train members of GLUGs on installing and using GNU/Linux. They have been largely successful and in many Engg. colleges the students have started using applications on GNU/Linux desktops. The students have formed mailing lists and are getting into the culture of knowledge sharing. More than 25 Engg. colleges in the state today have GLUGs. But it is not this has happened in these few months. The credit for having done the ground work to make all this possible goes to some of the founding members of FSF-AP.

And There Are More…
The GLUGs are not confined to Engg. and degree colleges. They exist in more interesting and unexpected places too. And they play even more interesting roles! One of them is the GLUG at Steel Plant, Vishakapatnam. The labor union there is working to convice the management on use of free software for cost cutting.

Here, I am narrating a small story. It it not over, so keep coming back! And what would I want u to take from it?

It is hard to have faith, but when u do, it pays off.

Posted in Swecha | 10 Comments »